Enduro is booming! There’s now so much choice on the market, and – if we’re to believe the marketing promises – these are serious capable do-it-all bikes. While that’s all very nice, can you buy a great bike for less than €4000? In this group test we find out.
So what does an enduro bike really have to do?
The answer is easy: everything you ask of it. All of the bikes in this test are competent climbers, with slight differences. However, point them downhill and the differences are vast! At one end of the spectrum there are overbuilt, slack, race-ready rigs, while at the other there are super-agile corner killers. The best enduro bike delivers the optimal mix, possessing confidence-inspiring characteristics that push you to test your limits and try new lines.
How important is an expensive spec?
How much does the spec influence how the bike rides? It’d be easy to just compare bikes based on their build specs, citing that Shimano XT is better than Deore, a SRAM X01 setup is better than having GX, and that an Eagle drivetrain is a dead cert for a test win. But hold on, results from this group test further confirm how a bike’s spec only tells half the story (if that!). Right now, components are so good across the board, even ‘cheap’ brakes are able to perform with power and modulation and a ‘budget’ groupset is still going to shift with precision and speed. Therefore, it’s time to broaden your gaze and take a look at the bigger picture: is the spec right for the context?
Of course, there are certain components that’ll be met with approving nods from your mates, but there are so many small details – like tire choice or a dropper post – that really impact the handling and enjoyment. This test fleet revealed some major differences – but it took a second look at the spec list to see exactly where the pros and cons were.
Travel is just a number
This test was confirmation of how little we can discern about a bike based purely on its amount of travel. Most of the bikes on test have between 150 and 170 mm of travel, but if we were going to categorize the test fleet solely on these figures then we’d have trail bikes, enduro bikes, and freeride bikes. What about when a bike with 150 mm of travel dishes out more stability and confidence on descents than one with 170 mm? This, guys, is a case of quality over quantity.
Enough talk about weight!
It’s like a bad record: “How much does your bike weigh?” While weight is ultimately a good measure of how suited the bike is to all-day rides and how it’ll grind its way uphill, there are other factors to consider – like the riding position, the efficiency of the suspension, and how the weight is distributed. This test fleet had an average weight of €13,9 k with.the lightest floating in at €13,34 and .he heaviest tipping the scales at 14.47 kg. A kilogram definitely isn’t something to be overlooked, but often the gram-saving approach is gained by using lightweight wheels or tires. So do lighter tires mean more fun? On climbs, yes, but not necessarily on descents.
Aluminium or carbon?
There are many preconceptions about carbon, but most aren’t true. Carbon is a major asset for manufacturers to build lighter, stiffer, and more stable bikes with more creativity in the frame’s design. So are carbon bikes automatically better? A controversial question – when carbon is misused, it can be too rigid and therefore gruelingly uncomfortable, and let’s not forget that higher price tag. With manufacturers meeting the demand for more affordable carbon bikes, there’s also a tendency to kit these bikes with below-par components.
|Bergamont ENCORE 9.0||€ 3,799||14.29 kg||170/165 mm||27,5″|
|Canyon Strive CF 7.0 Race||€ 3,799||13.42 kg||160/163 mm||27,5″|
|Giant Reign 1.5 LTD||€ 2,999||14.42 kg||160/160 mm||27,5″|
|Merida ONE-SIXTY 5000||€ 3,899||14.12 kg||170/165 mm||27,5″|
|Propain Tyee CF Free||€ 4,029||13.52 kg||170/160 mm||27,5|
|Radon SWOOP 170 10.0||€ 3,999||13.34 kg||170/170 mm||27,5″|
|Rose UNCLE JIMBO 3||€ 3,799||13.48 kg||160/165 mm||27,5″|
|Specialized Enduro Comp 29||€ 3,299||14.47 kg||160/155 mm||29″|
|Trek Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited||€ 3,699||14.24 kg||160/150 mm||27,5″|
|VOTEC VE ELITE 2017||€ 3,999||13.67 kg||170/160 mm||27,5″|
|YT CAPRA CF PRO||€ 3,999||13.96 kg||170/170 mm||27,5″|
Tops & Flops
Often small details can make a huge difference: seamless integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully selected parts. Easier said than done – here are some of the tops and flops from this grouptest.
The best enduro bike for under € 4,000
Can you get the perfect package for under €4,000? Can you have it all? Each bike in this test has gone to brilliantly diverse ways around design, kinematics, and geometry, but there were only five that nailed the overall package.
For a purebred race bike, the Canyon Strive CF is the ultimate choice! Not only is it a real piece of eye candy with a sleek frame and Canyon’s innovative Shape Shifter suspension concept, but its build spec has also been meticulously chosen to suit its purpose. The long frame and ultra-short chainstays ask for a skilled caress on the trails, however. The same expertise is needed on the Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 too, which is the lightest bike on test and unstoppable on the descents. Once you’ve swapped the tires, it’s time to get fast and loose – but be prepared to use some muscle to meet your line choices.
The YT CAPRA has already been crowned Buyer’s Tip once before, and it rocked up with a great total package and looked likely to take it this time around too. Thanks to its compact frame and progressive rear end, this is a seriously good-time bike. But as the competition gets increasingly fierce, the Trek Remedy 9 RSL has stuck its foot in the door. With an equally well-considered spec, a potent rear suspension, and the winning mix of agility and smoothness, the Remedy steals the Best Value crown.
Still, the entire test fleet stood in the shadow of one bike: the Specialized Enduro Comp 29. Unmatched in stability, speed, and balance, the Specialized manages to overcome its heavy weight to climb with an almost unrivalled eagerness and comfort. But this bike is by no means an ultra-luxe cruiseliner – the Enduro Comp 29 has agility en masse. With such a mean total package (despite certain price-point componentry), the Specialized is a well-deserving test winner.
All bikes in test: Bergamont ENCORE 9.0 | Canyon Strive CF 7.0 Race | Giant Reign 1.5 LTD | Merida ONE-SIXTY 5000 | Propain Tyee CF Free | Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 | Rose UNCLE JIMBO 3 | Specialized Enduro Comp 29 | Trek Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited | VOTEC VE ELITE 2017 | YT CAPRA CF PRO
Want to know more about trail bikes? We’ve already checked the most exciting trial bikes of 2017!
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer